Chlorine, as both an individual chemical and as the building block for many other chemical products, has come under increasing scrutiny by regulators and environmental organizations worldwide.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) workplace permissible exposure limit, not to be exceeded at any time, is 1 ppm.
The U.S. EPA regulates chlorine under the authority of at least five environmental statutes. Under the:
- Clean Air Act chlorine is a "hazardous air pollutant."
- Clean Water Act, chlorine use in bleaching pulp and paper products must be phased-out because chlorine combines with organic matter in trees to form dioxins, furans, and chlorinated phenolics.
- Comprehensive Environmental Responsibility, Compensation and Liability Act (popularly known as "Superfund") chlorine is an "extremely hazardous substance."
- Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program, all large quantity users of chlorine must submit data on chlorine releases and transfers.
- Safe Drinking Water Act a "maximum contaminant level" (MCL) is set for trihalomethanes, a byproduct of chlorine use in purifying water, at 0.10 milligram per liter. The MCL is the maximum permissible level of a contaminant in drinking water from a public water system.
Chlorine is also under scrutiny at the international level.
- Chlorine is on Sweden's "Observation List" of phaseout chemicals because it may "give rise to large risks to human health and/or the environment."
- In 1992, the International Joint Commission (IJC) recommended that Canada and the U.S. take a precautionary approach to chlorine and phase-out its use: 'We know that when chlorine is used as a feedstock in a manufacturing process, one cannot necessarily predict or control which chlorinated organics will result, and in what quantity. Accordingly, the Commission concludes that the use of chlorine and its compounds should be avoided in the manufacturing process. We recognize that socio-economic and other consequences of banning the use of chlorine 'and subsequent use of alternative chemicals or processes' must be considered in determining the timetable."
Industry analysts foresee a cloudy future for continued chlorine growth because of:
- increasing awareness of safety risks and environmental hazards caused by chlorine and its derivatives,
- actions by environmentalists against the production and use of chlorine,
- end-users reducing or eliminating the use of chlorine and chlorine-containing chemicals, and
- the phasing-out of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and chlorine in pulp bleaching.
Endnotes: The data in this section are from the following sources: Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), 1999, "Chemical Profile for Chlorine" (New York: EDF -- see webpage: http://www.scorecard.org/chemical-profiles); New Jersey Department of Health, 1991 (see endnote #1 for full citation); International Joint Commission (IJC), 1992, Sixth Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality (Washington, D.C.: IJC); SRI International, 1996 (see endnote #2); Swedish National Chemicals Inspectorate (KemI), 1991, Risk Reduction of Chemicals: A Government Commission Report (Report No. 1/91) (Solna, Sweden: KemI); and U.S. EPA, Office of Water, 1998, "Final Pulp and Paper Cluster Rule," published in the Federal Register, 63 FR 18504-18751, April 15, 1998 and 63 FR 42238-42240, August 7, 1998 (or see the webpage: http://www.epa.gov/OST/pulppaper/cluster.html).